Housing with care boom could add 2.6m homes back into mainstream market

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), a professional body for land, property and construction, has estimated that a dramatic increase in specialist housing for the elderly could release 2.6 million houses back into the mainstream housing market.

That is a prize worth fighting for in an economy where housing shortages are driving prices out of reach of normal working people in large parts of the country.

A report published in November by real estate consultant JLL suggests that many retirees want to live in retirement housing, but there is a chronic under-supply of high quality housing with care in the right locations.

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“Recent mid to high end schemes being developed across the UK are being fully sold off-plan with long waiting lists for existing schemes,” notes Anthony Oldfield, JLL’s director – healthcare alternatives and leader author of the report.

There is a yawning chasm between where affluent retirees would like to live and the accommodation available. JLL research shows that almost 80% of the over-65 population would be classified as being within mid- and high-end affluence by 2015, while 75% of the current housing with care stock is classified as affordable. This highlights the supply-demand imbalance in the current market, the report states.

In the UK, only 0.6% of retirees live in housing with care. In the United States and Australia the figure is more than 5%.

Housing with care, also known as extra care, assisted living, very sheltered housing or close care, is defined by JLL as housing for older people that often includes personal and domestic support, a dining service, communal facilities and 24 hour on site staff.

The focus is on collective enjoyment of life in old age, rather than health and care services, but care is available if necessary on site. Residents either own their personal units, or rent them.

The successful growth of housing with care depends on persuading retirees that it is a better place to live than remaining at home. Today, in the absence of sufficient housing with care units, the elderly remain at home for as long as possible, fearing that the alternative is a life being bounced between a care home with nursing and an NHS hospital.

“Housing with care is an accommodation response to the increase in manageable care needs and desires of older people to remain in a home of their own for as long as possible,” says Philip Schmid, associate director – alternatives, at JLL.

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